Albums

Cool Jazz - Released November 26, 2010 | Nightclub Records

This album is perhaps most significant for the process it set in motion -- the collaboration between Gil Evans and Miles Davis that would produce Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, two of Davis' best albums. That said, this album is a miracle in itself, the result of a big gamble on the part of Columbia Records, who put together Evans and Davis, who hadn't worked together since recording the critically admired but commercially unsuccessful sides that would later be issued as The Birth of the Cool. Columbia also allowed Evans to assemble a 19-piece band for the recordings, at a time when big bands were far out of fashion and also at a time when the resulting recordings could not be released until two years in the future (because of Davis' contractual obligations with Prestige). Davis was also expected to carry the album as its only soloist, and manage not to get lost among a cast of supporting musicians that included a huge horn section. To a large extent, he succeeds. Evans' arrangements in particular are well-suited to the format, and he and Davis formed a deep and close partnership where ideas were swapped back and forth, nurtured, and developed long before they were expressed in the studio. Davis gets off to a great start, with the hyper-kinetic "Springsville," which seems to almost perfectly embody Evans' and Davis' partnership with its light, flexible exchanges between soloist and orchestra. He is strongest on the ballads, though, where his subdued and wistful tone rises high above the hushed accompaniment, especially on "Miles Ahead" and "Blues for Pablo" (which foreshadows the bluesy, Latin-tinged sound of Sketches of Spain). The upbeat "I Don't Want to Be Kissed (By Anyone but You)" is another strong song, but shows the weakness of the format as Davis intersperses a charming, bright, technically challenging solo with a blasting horn section that occasionally buries him. It is a fine end, however, to an album that gave a hint of the greatness that would come as Evans and Davis fine-tuned their partnership over the course of the next several years. ~ Stacia Proefrock

Cool Jazz - Released September 20, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions Exceptional Sound Productions - The Qobuz Standard
Time In, issued in 1965, was the last of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck's "Time" recordings, and one of his most musically adventurous. Gone are the moody, silky textures and glissando moves of Time Out, or Time Further Out. In fact, of all the "Time" recordings, this is the least commercial and, in places, almost hard bop-oriented among them. This set goes beyond the entire West Coast idea as well. That's not to say there are no ballads -""Softly, William, Softly"" is one of the most gorgeous ballads Brubeck ever composed, with a memorable solo by Paul Desmond, who plays a slow, bluesy articulation over the pianist's augmented harmonic changes. But there's so much more. The title track has Stravinsky-esque chords that introduce a delicate theme, which disintegrates into a dissonant swing. There is also Brubeck variation on "Frankie and Johnnie," on "He Done Her Wrong." This track comes charging out of the box à la the Ramsey Lewis trio in a fit of pure one-four-five groove, with Desmond playing ostinato throughout the chorus. And here, Brubeck shows his love of tradition: Inside his solo, comprised of chords and striated intervallic figures that are just off the harmonic series, he never leaves the original behind; it is always readily evoked at any moment in the tune. The set closes with "Cassandra," a piece with sleight-of-hand rhythms and fleet soloing by the pianist and Desmond. Brubeck himself comes out of the melody with a series of 16th notes that blaze into 32nds before he comes back to the changes for Desmond. All the while, Joe Morello is triple-timing the band even in the slower passages just to keep the pulse on target as Gene Wright and Brubeck move all around the time figures to create a sense of space around Desmond's solo. Though it is seldom celebrated as such, this is one of Brubeck's finest moments on Columbia. ~ Thom Jurek

Cool Jazz - Released February 10, 2009 | Blue Note Records

Cool Jazz - Released February 10, 2009 | Blue Note Records

Grant Green's debut album, Grant's First Stand, still ranks as one of his greatest pure soul-jazz outings, a set of killer grooves laid down by a hard-swinging organ trio. For having such a small lineup -- just organist Baby Face Willette and drummer Ben Dixon -- the group cooks up quite a bit of power, really sinking its teeth into the storming up-tempo numbers, and swinging loose and easy on the ballads. The influence of the blues on both Green and Willette is strong and, while that's far and away the dominant flavor of the session, Green also displays his unique bop phrasing (learned by studying horn players' lines, rather than other guitarists) to fine effect on his high-octane opener, "Miss Ann's Tempo," and Willette's "Baby's Minor Lope." Green's original blues "A Wee Bit O'Green" and "Blues for Willarene" are both memorable, particularly the former, and the two standards -- "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do" -- are given smoky treatments soaked in bluesy, late-night atmosphere. Willette and Dixon both supply a tremendous rhythmic drive, and Willette's solos burn with gospel fervor. This same trio performed together on Willette's Stop and Listen album, with equally heated results. None of Green's contemporaries used the single-note style (Green rarely played chords, leaving that to the organ or piano) to quite the same degree, making him a unique voice on his instrument. And his terrific debut pegged him as an up-and-comer to watch closely. ~ Steve Huey

Cool Jazz - Released January 27, 2009 | Blue Note Records

Cool Jazz - Released January 27, 2009 | Blue Note Records

Cool Jazz - Released January 27, 2009 | Blue Note Records

Drugs and addictions defined most of Leo Parker's adult life, finally claiming it entirely in February of 1962 when he was only 36 years old. Only months earlier in 1961, in two sessions held on October 12 and October 20, Parker had played his heart out in what would have been his second album for Blue Note Records that year, and it had appeared that the baritone saxophonist was well on his way to a much deserved career comeback. The sessions, however, weren't released until almost 20 years later. Rollin' with Leo, presented here in remastered form, is a wonderful portrait of this unsung but brilliant player, whose huge, sad, but almost impossibly strong tone always felt like it carried the world on its shoulders. The centerpiece of Rollin' with Leo is the fascinating "Talkin' the Blues," which unfolds, nearly themeless, like a late-night conversation, ebbing and flowing exactly the way a conversation does, with Parker's baritone swinging back to gather notes, but always moving and stretching forward, expanding the conversation until it seems like everything that could be said HAS been said. Parker's death was tragic because he had so much more to say, and that makes this fine set all that more of a treasure. ~ Steve Leggett

Cool Jazz - Released February 12, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

Jimmy Giuffre's four Atlantic albums of 1958 are among his rarest and most satisfying releases. Unlike the other three, this particular set finds Giuffre (tripling as usual on clarinet, tenor and baritone) leading a somewhat conventional band, a seven-horn pianoless nonet. They perform 11 songs from the musical The Music Man, best-known of which are "76 Trombones," "Gary, Indiana" and "Till There Was You." The arrangements (all by Giuffre) swing, the beauty and joy of the melodies are brought out, and the leader (who takes all of the solos except on "The Wells Fargo Wagon") is in top form. A true rarity. ~ Scott Yanow

Cool Jazz - Released July 26, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

This 1961 release was intended to explore the humorous side of trombonist Frank Rosolino, relying as much on his vocals as his proven skill as an instrumentalist. Sticking mostly to standards and accompanied by a solid rhythm section consisting of pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Charles C. Berghofer, and drummer Irving Cottler, the leader's skills on trombone are never in doubt, but his prowess as an effective jazz vocalist is another matter. Although liner note writer Herb Heinman simply refers to his singing as "offbeat," his nasal sound and the considerable reverb added to every track grow quickly tiresome, although the cover photo is hilarious. Perhaps latecomers to Rosolino's music will have an even greater time thinking of him in a humorous vein; before shooting himself to death in 1978, he shot both of his young sons, killing one and blinding the other. ~ Ken Dryden

Cool Jazz - Released March 29, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Cool Jazz - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Cool Jazz - Released October 23, 2001 | Warner Bros.

The masterful fusion of street funk, sensual R&B, and contemporary jazz that Boney James accomplishes on Ride continues to make him a favorite with listeners around the world. The multi-talented saxophonist, keyboardist, producer, and composer wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs for this ten-song program and features such stellar guest talent as Marcus Miller, R&B singer Jaheim on the title track, Dave Hollister's gospel-flavored street style heard on "Something Inside," and Trina Broussard's crystal-clear vocals on the opening track, "Heaven." Boney James recorded two of the songs live in the studio, seasons "This Is the Life" with a tropical flavoring complete with steel pans, and downright floors listeners on the groove-oriented "See What I'm Sayin'," with Marcus Miller's funky basslines doing the walking while Boney James' saxophone does the talking. Ride is more intense and funkier than James' duet collaboration with trumpeter Rick Braun on Shake It Up, but doesn't stray far from his ability to do just that. It's definitely a smooth ride and one listeners will enjoy. ~ Paula Edelstein

Cool Jazz - Released June 18, 1999 | Warner Jazz

Since his late teens, Kenny Garrett has lived the kind of life most musicians only fantasize about. He's been a sideman for legends like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Emerging in the mid-'80s as one of contemporary jazz's most exciting and eclectic new solo artists, the saxophonist's albums have earned him worldwide recognition, four-star reviews, and top spots on reader polls and Rolling Stone's "hot list." Known for years primarily for his adventurous playing and sparkling improvisations, Garrett finally came into his own as a composer with his 1997 Grammy-nominated Warner Bros. release Songbook -- his first album comprised entirely of his own compositions. The concept behind Simply Said, Garrett's latest Warner Jazz release, must have been to further reflect his growth as a songwriter, keeping memorable melodies as the focus while exploring -- as the stylistically diverse performer has always done -- new exotic, rhythmic possibilities within the jazz framework. While Garrett has been very successful in the past covering the classics of influential artists (as he did on his previous Warners projects, 1993's Black Hope, 1995's Triology, and 1996's Pursuance: Music of John Coltrane), his growth as a songwriter has unleashed a desire to journey beyond what people might expect based on past projects. While Garrett kept his playing simple on lush, hypnotic ballads like "Can I Just Hold Your Hand?," "Sounds Like Winter," and "Words Can't Express," he and his core unit of gospel pianist/organist Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Chris Dave can't help but stir up the fires of the unexpected throughout the rest of the collection. Playful titles like "Organized Colors" (a nearly ten-minute piece incorporating a multitude of shades from silky and seductive to swinging and percussive), "Delta Bali Blues," "G.T.D.S" (aka "Give the Drummer Some"), and the whimsical piano, sax, and percussion jam "Charlie Brown Goes to South Africa" reflect the spirit Garrett was after here. Simply Said also features guest appearances by drummer Jeff Watts, electric bassist Marcus Miller ("G.T.D.S"), and Pat Metheny (who plays an atypical harmony role on "Yellow Flower" and "Sounds Like Winter"). ~ Jonathan Widran

Cool Jazz - Released May 16, 1997 | Warner Jazz

Songbook is the first release by alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett to feature his frequent touring quartet -- pianist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Nat Reeves -- on a program that consists entirely of Garrett's own compositions. Always inventive, curious, daring, and exuberant, Garrett's Songbook proves him worthy of the alto legacy that most people (both fans and musicians) seem to agree he carries, as he demonstrates what sounds like the uncanny ability to play two-faced -- one face looking forward to the freshness of new concepts and creations as yet undiscovered, yet with another face which simultaneously looks back to the fine, fierce alto tradition of Phil Woods and Charlie Parker. The band stretches out luxuriously in the Miles Davis tribute "Before It's Time to Say Goodbye," this first recording of Garrett's perennial in-concert crowd pleaser "Sing a Song of Song," "Ms. Baja" and "Brother Hubbard," and Garrett simply sounds like a true master. Garrett also pays tribute to Woody Shaw with "Wooden Steps." ~ Chris Slawecki

Cool Jazz - Released October 4, 1996 | Warner Bros.

Working with producer Paul Brown, Boney James' Boney's Funky Christmas is an entertaining set of loose, funky and bluesy interpretations of both classic Christmas carols ("The Christmas Song") and more obscure contemporary selections like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." Two selections, "This Christmas" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?," are sung by Dee Harvey and Bobby Caldwell, respectively, but the star of this show remains James and his saxophone, who breathe new life into these holiday cuts. ~ Thom Owens